Doing nothing: voidance and intensification

Bruno Besana

This paper gravitates around the idea that, in 20th century’s thought and art practice, ‘destruction’ changes of sign: being no longer perceived in mere negative terms, something emerges like a positive or constructive side of it. Matta-Clark’s collapsing structures or Ulay’s disappearing photos, Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin or Malevitch’s demand to let all painting of Russia burn suggest that the contemplation of ashes might be a fertile ground for new ideas and forms to appear. The necessity also appears in theoretical and political thought of the century to overcome by destructive means the deadlock of the negative: if by opposing something one affirms the very terrain that supports the division between the two opposite sides – thus confirming the legitimacy of that which one allegedly opposes or attempts at negating – the idea of destruction is set to break this reproductive circle, and to bring about novelty in merely positive terms.

Still, the attempt to construct by destructive means seems to constantly fall back either into determinate negation or into sheer annihilation, thus opening the question of which modes or strategies can construct the very field where destruction is identical to the construction of the new.

My attempt will be to delineate the outsets of this field by naming two different modes: voidance and intensification. From Diether Roth’s accumulation of objects and symbols combined with a constant process of rotting to Cage’s use of silence as a Kampfplatz where conflicting noises come to reconfigure the space of music, art appears to echo the question of the double attempt of politics to intensify contradictions up to an explosive point and to produce the new by suspending or erasing any relation with the modes of representation, organization and hierarchisation of society.